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OPINION: Wooden Award candidates clash in Bloomington



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Redshirt junior Ali Patberg drives to the basket Feb. 6 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU led Maryland at the half 38-32. Colin Kulpa

Thursday’s matchup between IU and Maryland featured a battle of top-20 teams and showcased two of the best players in the country. 

IU junior guard Ali Patberg and Maryland senior guard Kaila Charles were both named to the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 Watch List on Tuesday. The award is chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts based on players' performances during the first half of the 2019-20 season. 

Patberg and Charles are the only player representing the Big Ten on the list. 

Patberg came into the game averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game and 4.8 assists per game to accompany her 4.8 rebounds per game. She played a key part in IU claiming the Barn Burner Trophy over Purdue on Monday, going off for 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. 

Charles came in leading the Terrapins with 14.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. She only played 22 minutes against Michigan State on Monday, but still managed to drop 17 points on 6-9 shooting. 

Both candidates continued to light up the stat sheet on Thursday, putting on an offensive clinic. While Charles’ Terrapin team left Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with the 79-69 win, the individual battle was too close to call. 

It was like a boxing match between Rocky and Mr. T, as they went blow for blow for much of the game. Every time Charles went on a scoring tear, Patberg answered with scores of her own. When Patberg dished a couple assists, Charles collected a few rebounds. After it was all said and done, both would walk away with double-doubles. 

Charles started the scoring with a mid-range jumper en route to eight first quarter points. She also collected three rebounds, more than the rest of her team. 

Patberg wouldn’t let Charles steal her spotlight, though. She had a hand in 16 of IU’s 23 first quarter points. By the end of the quarter she already had six points and four assists, putting her on pace for a career night. 

The second quarter wasn’t as kind to either player. Charles went 0-2 from the field and 1-2 from the free throw line to score just one point. Patberg wouldn’t score at all, missing all three of her shots. Going into the half, it looked as though both players needed a rest.

Charles used that rest and went to work in the third. Just 5:27 into the quarter, she scored eight points, not missing a single shot. Her efficient scoring propelled Maryland from down six to up seven in the matter of minutes. 

Unlike Charles, Patberg received little help from her team. She scored or assisted on all but one of IU’s third quarter points. 

In the fourth, Patberg did everything she could to will her team back into the game. Down eight late, she took control and scored on back-to-back possessions, but the defense couldn’t hold. Patberg would score the last six Hoosier points, fighting until the very end. 

Charles walked away with the win and the scoring advantage, leading all scorers with 21 points on 10-13 shooting, including a perfect 6-6 in the second half. She collected 11 rebounds to secure her fourth double-double of the season. 

Patberg got her first double-double of the season, scoring 16 points with a season-high 11 assists. This was Patberg’s 18th game scoring double-digits, including seven in a row. 

Patberg and Charles showed why they deserve to be on the Wooden Award Watch List, going blow for blow on national television. The winner of the 2020 John R. Wooden Award will be presented during the ESPN College Basketball Awards on April 10. 

Regardless of the result, Thursday’s battle proved both players are more than deserving of college basketball’s top honor.

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